- Associated Press - Thursday, June 12, 2014

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Dressed in late 19th-Century garb, Jeff “Sawbriar” Farmer looked down the sights of his replica of an 1866 Remington lever-action rifle Wednesday afternoon at the West Side Sportsman’s Club.

His focus was on a two-foot tall steel target 100 yards away. Milliseconds after the firing pin on his long rifle hit the primer of the bullet he had loaded himself, the lead projectile he had also molded traveled at the rate of 1,200 feet per second into the target, striking it with a trebly “ting.”

“We just have a good old time out here,” said Farmer, a blacksmith from Berea, Kentucky, while cleaning the black powder from his rifle after firing it.

He and dozens of other members of the National Congress of Old West Shootists are in Evansville for the week to compete in the club’s annual national shooting match. This is the group’s seventh year holding the national competition in Evansville, the Evansville Courier & Press reported (https://bit.ly/1hR3v88 ).

The matches are free and open to the public to watch.

Wednesday was the competition for long rifles and big bore rifles - buffalo killers - but the real show is Friday and Saturday, when competitors face off in “Cowboy Town,” said longtime local shootist and leathersmith, Ron “Montana Dad” Peachee.

“Cowboy Town” is a staged competition area featuring several period buildings the group has built over the years. They include a church, gallows, a bar, a fort and a moving mine cart. Participants are given scenarios to face at each stage, and are timed while shooting at the steel targets. Winners are determined based upon time and number of targets hit.

While this week is the group’s national shooting competition, for many, immersing themselves in the history is the focus.

“We’re just a group of people who like history. It’s about learning what they did, what they wore, how they did things, how they improvised, how they survived back in the (late 1800s),” group spokesman Robert “Duke Henry” Hanson said.

Everyone is required to dress and use firearms used between the end of the Civil War and the end of the 19th century. Safety protection for the eyes and ears is the only exception.

While the dress up and history are enough for some, others enjoy the sport of the shootout.

Brown County Sheriff Rick “Hoosier Lawman” Followell joined the shootist group a few years back with his wife as an activity the two could share together. His deputies think the dress-up component is “silly,” he said.

“To me, the dress up is secondary to the shooting, but this is what I have to do to be able to shoot, and I like to shoot, so I’m going to dress up to do it. It took me awhile to embrace that,” Followell said.

While a competition, having fun is one of the group’s top priorities.

“We’re just a bunch of old people acting like kids,” said match director Jay “Cash Creek” West.

Thursday competitions included a cowboy trap shoot from 9 to 11 a.m. and side matches from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Stage shoots are scheduled Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Westside Sportsman’s Club is located at 1000 N. Peerless Road in western Vanderburgh County. The event is free and open to the public, but those attending are advised to bring ear and eye protection.

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, https://www.courierpress.com

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